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Biden Seeks To Rally All Sides Of Gun Debate


This is WEEKEND EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Vice President Biden met with factions in the gun debate, this week, from the National Rifle Association to the families of the Virginia Tech shootings. On Tuesday, the vice president will present the recommendations of the task force on gun violence that he has been leading, to President Obama. We're joined now by NPR's Brian Naylor, who's been covering the gun debate in Washington, D.C. Brian, thanks for being with us.

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: Thank you, Scott.

SIMON: We've heard talk about universal background checks, including private gun sales; maybe something about high-capacity magazines. What do you think these recommendations might be, from what we've heard already?

NAYLOR: I think it's likely to be a mixture of some of the legislative things; like reinstituting the ban on the assault weapons, the military-style rifles, like the one used in the Newtown school shooting that relaunched this debate. There will be a proposal, probably, to ban the high-capacity ammunition magazines.

Vice President Biden also hinted on - a number of other steps he's likely to urge; including universal background checks on people buying guns, and figuring out a way how to strengthen those background checks. For instance, he noted that convicted felons are prohibited from buying weapons, but that states don't always report those felons on a timely basis, to the National Crime Database.


SIMON: Brian, we've mentioned that the vice president met with a number of different groups. The National Rifle Association came out of that meeting saying that the White House has an agenda to attack the Second Amendment. So no perceptible change in their position, but what about some of the other parties?

NAYLOR: Yeah, the NRA doesn't seem to be giving any ground. But other groups are - especially those on the gun control side of things - are much more hopeful that this task force will lead to some changes. The Brady Campaign called on Congress to pass a law making gun trafficking a federal offense, which it isn't now; and to close that so-called gun show loophole, which allows about 40 percent of gun sales to take place without background checks - those sales that occur, you know, at gun shows or between private individuals.

SIMON: And of course, some of the most forceful voices we've heard, in this debate, have been outside of the chambers in Washington, D.C.

NAYLOR: That's right. And we heard some governors speak this week - in New York, where Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivered his State of the State message. He made a very impassioned plea for a ban on assault weapons.


NAYLOR: And in Connecticut, where the Sandy Hook school shootings occurred last month, Gov. Dan Malloy called for a ban on large magazines. And even out West, you know, where guns have always been part of the mythology and culture, there have been calls for tightening some restrictions. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper this week called for universal background checks on gun sales.

SIMON: What's the effect of hearing these voices come from outside Washington, D.C. - politically?

NAYLOR: Well, I think it's interesting because the big bottleneck has been in Congress trying to get legislation passed. For many years, there's been no appetite whatsoever. So I think when you hear from these states that they're taking action, number one, it indicates that there is some sentiment to tighten controls in those states; and also, it at least lends the sense of momentum behind this effort to get legislation through Congress.

SIMON: Of course, this week also saw the second anniversary of another mass shooting; the one in Tucson that wounded Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, and left six people dead.

NAYLOR: That's right. And she and her husband, Mark Kelly, began a new group, a political action committee they announced this week, called Americans for Responsible Solutions. Mark Kelly explained the group this week, on ABC.


NAYLOR: Scott, that group has already received reportedly seven-figure donations including from the widow of Steve Jobs. Still, they have a long ways to go to match the NRA, which last year gave some $20 million to political candidates.

SIMON: NPR's Brian Naylor; thanks very much.

NAYLOR: Thanks, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.